Getting Italian Citizenship in 2024: An Honest Overview

If you’re wondering how to get Italian passport through your Italian heritage in 2024, this is the perfect primer for you. For the sugar-coated explanation of this process, how easy it is, and how in no time you can join the ranks of faceless influencers drinking espressos on a stranger’s balcony while overlooking the Colosseum with Dean Martin’s “Volare” playing in the background, look elsewhere. 

If you want honesty and useful information, keep reading. 

How to get Italian Citizenship

Legal Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and as such I cannot provide comprehensive or concrete legal advice regarding any citizenship applications. The information provided on quasitaliano.com is provided for reference only and may not be complete or checked for accuracy. As each specific case is different, this post is a high-level overview of the citizenship by descent process intended only as a starting point for informational purposes and does not address complexities of all individual citizenship cases.

Introduction

At 29 years old I moved to Italy to get my citizenship recognized and have a new experience. You can read more about this backstory here. I was recognized as an Italian citizen in September 2022. 

I get a lot of questions about how the citizenship through descent process works. There are a lot of great resources out there that were a huge help to me (shoutout to the folks at dualusitalian.com – no affiliation). So at the risk of reinventing the wheel, I wanted to share a bit about this process from the perspective of someone who just completed it and give an honest perspective on the process.

I will be speaking from the perspective of a US citizen getting Italian citizenship through descent (jure sanguinis). While the principle is the same anywhere that there are Italian immigrants, timelines vary greatly from country to country. Those seeking Italian citizenship through marriage or naturalization will find this post only partially relevant.

Disclaimer: Later in this article I mention that, through a separate company, I offer paid services for assisting people with the Italian citizenship through descent process. I mention that only because I want to be as useful and helpful to readers as possible. But the purpose of this blog (QuasItaliano) is to share my experiences living in Italy and provide useful information to readers about all things Italy travel. Getting citizenship was a big component of my experience. While the citizenship was a large part of my experience, Italian citizenship-related services are not within the scope of QuasItaliano.com.

Why get Italian citizenship

Becoming a citizen of Italy comes with many benefits. To name a few:

  • As a member state of the European Union (EU), the ability to legally live and work within any of the EU member states with no time limit (with a tourist visa, non-EU citizens can only stay up to 90 days)
  • Access to the high quality and low-cost healthcare of Italy (or any EU country – this depends on where you have residency).
  • Voting rights in Italian elections.
  • Access to low-cost EU universities.
  • If you have children after becoming a citizen, they would automatically inherit your Italian citizenship.
  • With an Italian passport, you can travel into and within the EU and Schengen Area more easily.
Wait! Are you planning a vacation to Italy? If so check out some of my destination pages like The Perfect Amalfi Coast 4 Day Itinerary

How It’s Possible

Obtaining Italian citizenship through descent is possible through a principle known as jure sanguinis (or iure sanguinis, or jus sanguinis – ask your Latin teacher) meaning “right of blood”. Since 1865, the Italian law more or less stated that citizenship was derived from the parent (the father, specifically). There have been various modifications since, including acknowledgement of women as humans with an ability to pass on citizenship themselves. 

Prior to 1992, if an Italian citizen gained citizenship of a foreign country, they would lose Italian citizenship. 

For your purposes, a child born to an Italian citizen inherits the citizenship of the parent. Thanks to a treaty between the US and Italy (and other EU countries), you can hold dual citizenship. 

This all means that someone born to an Italian citizen is already an Italian citizen. This is why we say “recognition of Italian citizenship”. The process of submitting paperwork verifies this and makes it official, thus having your already-existing Italian citizenship recognized. The recognition process is required to reap any of the benefits of the citizenship which you may already have.

There is no generational limit to how far you can go back in your ancestral line, as long as your ancestor was a documented Italian citizen. This would have been after the unification of Italy in 1861 (prior to that there was no such thing as an Italian citizen). So whether you have Italian parents or Italian great great grandparents, you may be eligible. 

Where to Apply

You can apply through an Italian consulate in the United States, or you can apply directly in Italy.

There are Italian consulates in most if not all US states, but many of these are honorary consulates, with limited capabilities. There are 10 consulates in the US that process citizenship applications. Consulates generally serve multiple states/regions. For example, the Atlanta consulate is honorary only, and Georgians need to use the Miami consulate for citizenship applications.

Applying in Italy (which is what I did) requires that you establish residency in Italy and apply through the comune (Italian municipality) where you live. Your residency must be registered and physically verified via a police check. You cannot submit your citizenship paperwork until you are a resident. By law, you are required to remain a resident until your citizenship process is complete.

Please note that applying in Italy requires careful and strategic selection of where to live, because your application process will be handled in the comune in which you live. Please see my Interactive Population Map of Italy which may be a useful reference tool.

While it has happened in the past with some less-than-reputable companies, you cannot simply show up in the comune and stay for 2 weeks, just enough time for the police check and paperwork submittal, then leave. You need to live there. Can you travel around Italy? Yes – I did. But not before the police verified my residence, which can take up to 45 days. Can you leave Italy for a short trip? Yes. But it’s generally advisable to spend most of your time in the comune in which you are applying. I did this, and loved it. I made some great friends there.

Required Paperwork

Each individual’s case is different, but all cases begin the same way. 

The make-or-break first step is to find naturalization records for your Italian ancestor. These will show proof of when your Italian ancestor naturalized as a US citizen (if ever), and this date must be after the next person in your line was born. 

If this is not the case, the citizenship link was broken, and you will need to check another familial line or seek citizenship through other means. Falling in love with and marrying an Italian might be the next easiest option.

Then you need to collect all vital records (birth certificate and marriage certificate) for everyone in the line – from you to your Italian ancestor. For the Italian ancestor, getting your hands on the original document can be challenging especially if you have no contacts in the town they came from (see section about service providers later in this article).

Most of the documents need to be translated to Italian and apostilled (certified for international use). This will include documents for each in-line family member who lived in the US, and also certified copies of the original documents from the town your ancestor came from in Italy.

Ultimately, you are proving that there is an unbroken line from you to your Italian ancestor. 

The exact document requirements vary depending on your case and where you are applying. Italian consulates in the US tend to add more rules than the law actually states, because they apparently didn’t have enough to do so they wanted to create more work for themselves and for us. For example, many consulates require death certificates as well, or they require documents for people out of your direct line (such as spouses). Anybody with half a brain can understand that the details of a person’s death or their spouse’s birth is irrelevant to any of this, but I digress.

Some other potential layers include (but are not limited to):

  • If there are divorces in your family line, you will need documentation related to that.
  • If your ancestor was a woman and the next person in line was born before 1 January 1948, your case will need to go to an Italian court.
  • If there are major discrepancies between documents (spellings of names, dates, etc.) you will either need these amended or addressed with a separate letter, which will also need to be translated.

How Long it Takes

7 months, 21 days, 5 hours, and 43 minutes.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It would be nice if it was that simple. 

Applying in a consulate in the US: 4 to 5 years

First you need to request an appointment. At the time of this writing, the waiting times for next available appointments seem to average 2-3 years. After appointment and citizenship application, expect an additional year to year and a half for processing time. The wait time will vary from consulate to consulate and depends on the complexity of your case. 

The reality is, if you want to get Italian dual citizenship in 2024, you will have to apply in Italy, not through a consulate in the US. And even this is not guaranteed.

Applying in Italy: 4 to 10 months

This excludes the time to collect documents before you relocate. After moving, you need to apply for residency first, then submit the citizenship application, and wait. How long it takes depends on the time of year, how busy the comune is, what problems they find with your paperwork, or how motivated they are to help you. That last one is not a joke.

There are cases of people being recognized as citizens after a month. Assume you will not be one of these people. For every person recognized in the timespan of a long Italian lunch, there’s two or three other people whose processes lasted longer than 6 months, or more than a year in extreme cases. Even if you use a service provider (discussed later), they cannot significantly accelerate the process without engaging in illegal activity.

My suggestion for those who want to apply in Italy: be able to go to Italy for no less than 6 months, regardless of what someone tells you. You will enjoy the experience more without the stress of having a time window. Trust me, things will come up.

Expect the Unexpected

Maybe there will be a global pandemic, closing all government offices or severely limiting their staff. Maybe the government in Italy will collapse, requiring a snap election that diverts the comune’s energy and resources for a month and a half. Maybe this causes your process to drag into August, when government offices in Italy close for holiday so everyone can go to the beach and work on their already-overdone tans.

How Much it Costs

Again – it depends. Note, the costs listed below are subject to change at any time.

If you apply in an Italian consulate in the US:

  • Document costs (birth, marriage, death, apostilles, translations): $600 to $1000
  • Cost of the passport: about $117
  • If applying in the US, consular application fee: about $300
  • Optional use of a service provider (to help with guidance, document collection, package review translations, etc.): costs vary greatly, starting around $5000

If you apply in Italy:

  • Optional use of a service provider (to provide an apartment, check the documentation, communicate with comune or any other officials requiring) – $4000 to $10,000
  • Apartment rent $300 to $500 per month
  • Living expenses (utilities, transportation, food, etc.): too variable to put a number, but figure 20% less than the US. 
  • Flights to Italy
  • Opportunity cost of not being able to work*

*It’s illegal to work in Italy without a work visa while awaiting recognition of Italian citizenship. That said, people have successfully maintained US-based remote jobs, working out of their apartment in Italy. In fairness, the law hasn’t caught up to the concept of remote work, and the point of the law is to prevent non-citizens from taking work away from Italians. Some people take up part-time jobs in Italy while awaiting citizenship recognition (working as many Italians do, “lavoro nero” or “work in the black”). This is not legal advice. This is just what I have heard. Proceed at your own risk.

Do I Need to Learn Italian?

No. For jure sanguinis applications (citizenship by descent), there is no language requirement. If you are seeking citizenship through marriage or naturalization, you must pass a level B1 Italian language test.

Under the jure sanguinis principle, you are already a citizen, just not recognized. So you don’t need to learn the language. 

That being said, if you do intend to call yourself “Italian”, I am of the opinion that you owe it to yourself, the country you now claim, and your ancestors to learn at least some of the language. And why not? Learning another language opens so many doors and most importantly makes you seem cool around your friends and family.

What is a “Service Provider”?

I mentioned above about the use of a “service provider” for assistance. The Italian citizenship application process makes buying a house look simple. For this reason, there are companies that you can pay for help, either with collecting the necessary documents, applying in Italy, or the entire process. They can also help give you the peace of mind that all of your documents are in order prior to submitting them to the consulate or moving to Italy.

In my case, I did all document collection and assembled my application package myself, but I paid a company to help once I arrived in Italy (communicating with the comune, setting me up with an apartment, going with me to appointments, communicating with Italian authorities, etc.). It was well worth it. 

The process can be overwhelming and I would suggest to anyone who can afford it to alleviate some of the headache and save time by paying a reputable company for assistance, especially on the apply-in-Italy side, if you go that route. The risks of being stuck in a 1 year apartment lease in Italy with a comune that doesn’t want to work with you are too high, in my opinion. Plus, navigating the notorious bureaucracy and inefficiency of the Italian government was not something I wanted to deal with.

This post is intended to be informational only and not a sales pitch. Feel free to skip this paragraph if you would like. However, if you do need assistance with obtaining Italian citizenship through descent, I have a separate company, BecomeItaliani, just for that purpose. We assist with the US-side of the process (what documents are required, how to collect them, translations, certifications, etc.). You can contact us at becomeitaliani.com or on Instagram at becomeitaliani

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely in the US, of Italian descent, and are considering getting your Italian citizenship recognized. If so, pause for a moment and consider how lucky you are that this is even in the realm of possibility. Not only have you won the lottery by being born a US citizen, but you can potentially add to your fortune the opportunities available in Europe. 

I pursued Italian citizenship because of the opportunities it would bring, and the new experience that accompanied the process. I did not pursue it out of any sort of rejection of the United States. I am extremely grateful for everything that came with being brought up in the US. I understand as a straight white male, I have a specific perspective that will differ from others’. But the reality is that when you arrive in Italy, you will not be greeted with a progressive utopia, void of the problems that exist in the US. 

As US citizens with Italian ancestry, getting Italian citizenship is a luxury. For citizens of Brazil or Argentina (who have the first and second highest populations of Italian descendants, respectively), getting European citizenship arguably means a lot more for employment opportunities and general quality of life. Their consulate wait times for citizenship applications are up to 10 years long.

I’ll write a separate post about this, but after living in Italy for 8 months and now being a citizen here, I’ve learned not to flaunt it and only mention it if people ask why I’m here and speak Italian. 

While in Italy, I’ve met dozens of people who are not so lucky. Some of my Albanian friends come to mind. Many of them came to Italy as children, speak perfect Italian, have the culture (more than any Godfather-loving Italian American), and work hard amongst Italians. But they are still not yet eligible for Italian citizenship. They were just born in the wrong country, a country with a weak passport and household income that’s 13% that of the US. 

Keep that in mind if you show up to Italy with barely-conversational Italian and expectation of a passport within 6 months.

That’s All for Now

My goal with this post was to inform and provide useful information. If you’re interested in hearing more about my experience, check out the conversation I had with Chase Warrington on his podcast, About Abroad

If you have questions about the Italian citizenship through descent process, you can contact my separate company, BecomeItaliani here.

Additionally, if you are interested in traveling to Italy and want guidance or support, check out my services page. Also check out some other posts on my site, where I intend to be a one-stop-shop for all things Italy travel. 

You can support my work by using the affiliate links which you can find on my recommendation pages. This would be greatly appreciated. 

Ciao for now, and thanks for reading.

If you found value in this content and want to support my work,  you can buy me a cappuccino!Cappuccino icon

6 thoughts on “Getting Italian Citizenship in 2024: An Honest Overview”

  1. Couple questions:
    1. Are there any advantages of getting dual citizenship in US and Italy?

    2. If I send a couple 20-something year old girls ( nurses) over there, will they be safe?

    1. Hi Susan! Thanks for writing. I appreciate the engagement.

      1. I listed some of the benefits above (link)

      2. I’m assuming you’re asking for a trip to Italy in general, not about citizenship specifically. Regardless – in general, Italy is considered a safe country. In fact, the rates of murder and rape in the US are 5 and 3.5 times those of Italy, respectively. So from a violence standpoint, the US is more dangerous. This website has a good write-up on it.

      The greatest risks of crime in Italy for a tourist will be petty theft, which is a risk in any large city. I recently wrote an article about my dad getting pickpocketed in Rome – that’s a perfect example of the kind of things to look out for. Awareness is the best defense here.

      Soon I will be publishing an article about solo travel for females that you may find relevant.

      Regardless of what I’ve said here, it’s always recommended to check the US Department of State website before traveling to Italy.

  2. Hi is there any way you can give me information on how you obtained residency when you first got there?
    I am married to an Italian citizen and we both live in the United States, but we are separated for the last few years. I want to return to Italy to live but I can not ask for residency through marriage because he will not be there with me. So I am thinking to file for citizenship through marriage. But how do I get residency so I can apply for Italian citizenship?

    1. Hi Donna! Thanks for writing. I don’t know much about the process for Jure Matrimonio, so I suggest you speak with a professional experienced with JM cases, especially if you decide to move to Italy for the process.

      To answer your question, with the help of a paid service provider I followed these steps for applying for residency.

      On dualusitalian.com they have a whole page dedicated to citizenship through marriage.

      I hope that helps.

  3. Thank you very much for a detailed information. Can I travel outside of EU when I am waiting for Italian citizenship or i should stay in EU?

    1. Thanks for the comment! If you’re applying for citizenship in Italy, technically you could travel outside the EU – there’s no law against it. But it’s not a great idea to leave Italy for too long, because there’s a chance you would need to appear in person on short notice for some kind of paperwork at the comune where you’re applying. Keep in mind that applying in Italy is intended specifically for residents – people who live in Italy.

      In my case, I only left Italy twice while awaiting citizenship recognition, and both times were within the EU.

      I hope that helps – thanks for the question!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *